- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Like father, like son? At Virginia Tech, not quite.

Four members of the Hokies football team had fathers who spent at least part of their professional sports careers in Washington. But none of the Hokies wound up playing the same position as his dad — and one isn’t even in the same sport.

Still, there’s no question what engendered the love of competition for Chad Grimm, son of former Washington Redskins great Russ; Blake and Brett Warren, sons of former Redskins tight end Donnie; and Michael Malone, son of basketball Hall of Famer Moses.

“I’ve always been around the game, so I’ve always had a passion for it,” said Chad, a walk-on sophomore linebacker. “Of him actually playing, I don’t have any big memories of any significant things.”

Anyone scouring the roster for the second coming of Russ Grimm, a four-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman who’s now an assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, won’t find him.

While the father stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 290 pounds during his heyday with the “Hogs” in the 1980s, when he helped usher John Riggins into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the son is only 5-10 and 182. That said, Chad still felt some pressure because of his surname when he was at Fairfax County’s Oakton High School, but the expectations diminished once he reached college.

“I don’t think there’s actually an emphasis that I should be this dominating college football player,” said Chad, a reserve linebacker and special teams player.

Michael Malone faced some of the same expectations growing up in Houston in the long shadow of his 6-10, 260-pound dad. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver was recruited by Texas but chose Virginia Tech because of family ties in Petersburg, Va., Moses’ hometown, and his dislike of the hot Texas summers.

“It’s like you’re living up to something,” said Michael, whose father played for the Washington Bullets from 1986 to 1988. “People look at you as, you know, are you a good athlete, or are you going to be a good athlete because your father was? People always act like, ‘Well, your father was good in basketball, so I was thinking you would be good as well.’”

Chad Grimm wanted to go to a big school and chose Virginia Tech partly because of the coaching staff’s favorable attitude toward walk-ons — “they treat everyone equal; just because [players are] on scholarship doesn’t guarantee them a position” — but also because he knew Brett Warren, a freshman, was going to wind up in Blacksburg. The best friends played against each other in high school — Brett’s father coached him at Centreville — and they roomed together this year.

Though Brett, a 6-1 freshman linebacker, figures into the Hokies’ plans more than Chad, neither saw as much time this season as the elder Warren, Blake. The redshirt junior linebacker started the opener against Southern Cal and saw more playing time after Xavier Adibi tore his right biceps tendon in that game and required surgery. Blake played in all 12 games, picked off two passes and returned one 46 yards for a touchdown.

Of course, Brett and Blake don’t play the same position as their father. But that didn’t mean the brothers had nothing to learn from Donnie, a tight end for the Redskins from 1979 to 1992 who ranks ninth in team history with 244 receptions.

“I didn’t start playing football till pretty late, till seventh grade,” said Blake, a 6-3, 246-pounder. “[My dad] never really pushed me or anything. He let me do my own thing. Once I got into it, he was able to show me a lot of stuff, a lot of techniques. He was able to give me a lot of tips and pointers as to how the big boys do it.”

As the oldest of the three Redskins progeny at Virginia Tech, Blake remembers more about his father’s playing days, including the Super Bowl victory over the Buffalo Bills after the 1991 season. He used to tag along with his father to the weight room in the offseason, trying to imitate him, but even that experience didn’t prepare him for the sophistication of organized football.

“That can be a shock, that first year for a lot guys,” said Blake, who chose Virginia Tech over Richmond and Boston College because he liked the fact that it was close — but not too close — to his parents in Clifton. “You got the guys who have just come up, and they don’t know what it is to go run full speed at somebody and hit somebody.”

And that’s something these Hokies learned from their famous fathers.

“I love [football]. It’s the kind of thing you get tired of but you can never give up, ever,” Chad said. “I mean, you definitely get tired coming out to practices and stuff, but there’s something about me that I can’t let it go. For some reason I’ll always be a part of it or around the game.”

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